This conversation about Yuk Hui’s book Art and Cosmotechnics (2021) took place at the e-flux Screening Room on March 23, 2023. It has been edited for length and clarity.
Barry Schwabsky: In your book you remind us of the fact that the Greek word technē refers both to what we today consider technique or technology, and to art—that art is included under the same word. And it just makes me wonder: In China, what’s the word for “technology”? What’s the etymology? And does it have the same breadth as the Greek term, or does it have a different compass? How do you even translate the word “technology” into a non-European language?
Yuk Hui: Right, this is a problem. How do you translate? And this is an issue that persists throughout the whole process of modernization. Many terms translated from Western languages—German, Latin, French, English—were first translated by Japanese scholars into kanji and then exported to China. The word “metaphysics,” for example, is translated into Chinese as 形而上學 Xíng’érshàngxué, or “that which is below the form.” This translation was done by Japanese philosophers before it was adopted by the Chinese. It’s a rather complicated process.